Middle East Airline Offices in Hamra witnessed on February 5th a sit-in by the owners of travel and tourism agencies in Lebanon, demanding the national airlines to start accepting payment in Lebanese Pounds.
Owners of travel and tourism agencies have lost their clients to most airlines operating in Lebanon because of that. And, while they had previously approached the relevant ministers and the MEA airlines with an open letter, requesting to have that situation restored, nothing has been done.
The tourism sector, like all other sectors in Lebanon, is struggling immensely. This sector includes more than 600 enterprises with more than 5,000 workers.
Protesters at the sit-in believe that the MEA administration is the only one able to resolve the current problem, and is expected to coordinate with the Central Bank and those responsible to aid in resolving the payment issues.
The MEA administration promised a reply on Tuesday, February 3rd. However, the negotiations of the union with concerned parties have not yielded except empty promises.
The sit-in came as a result of their demands not receiving an appropriate response. "Look at the bitter and catastrophic impacts reached in the past 4 months, the exchange rate of the dollar, and the decisions of banks and others," one of the protesters stated.
A protester by the name of Ziad Khairallah pointed out, "Several problems have increased this sector’s suffering, including currency exchange teams, arbitrary bank decisions, limited withdrawals, website competition, and inability to transfer money abroad."
People are unable to pay except in Lebanese Pounds. The travel agencies are thus forced to exchange LBP to dollars with the losses that accompany it. The goal of the sit-in was to shed light on the problem of airline tickets and pressure both the MEA and the government.
The protesters are now awaiting a firm response from the MEA administration with regard to the situation at hand. Many of them are at risk of losing their jobs if the administration does not find a solution soon.